A volatile Paterson in the aftermath of former Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ political demise, has players on the ground chattering again about a possible citywide 2018 candidacy by native Patersonian Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35), a storied Silk City football coach.
“I haven’t ruled it out,” Wimberly told InsiderNJ, when asked if he is considering running for mayor next year.
Right now, he’s running for reelection to the General Assembly, amid a war for speaker between Assemblyman Vincent Prieto and Assemblyman Craig Coughlin. Wimberly sides with fellow North Jerseyan Prieto, who hopes to fend off the Middlesex-based Coughlin with upstart wins in LD25 and LD39, where victories could induce wobbly Essex delegates to fall in his favor. But if Coughlin forces win in LD11, LD2 and LD16, those same four Essex assembly people would likely wobble in the Woodbridger’s direction.
The war puts Wimberly on a ginger-footed political tightrope. He’s close to Democratic State Party (and Passaic County Democratic Committee) Chairman John Currie, who’s closer to Prieto than to Coughlin. If Coughlin succeeds, would that back bench the competitive Wimberly to the point of him wanting out, a la former Assemblyman (and sitting Union County Sheriff and LD20 Senate candidate) Joe Cryan, who moved to run for sheriff a few years ago when he came up on the losing end of a leadership fight?
Would the shift compel Wimberly to jump into a mayor’s race?
The Assemblyman wouldn’t go there, but he did say the usual people have been nibbling on his ear. This time he’s listening a little more intently, although the Hackensack High School Football coach and family man still faces the same financial challenges of two children in college and two more on the way. The high citywide vote-getter when he ran for city council in 2010 and hoisted Jeff Jones into the mayoralty, Wimberly offers a field-clearing dynamic in what now is a crowed arena of contenders.
Democratic Party players like Ward 6 Councilman Andre Sayegh, Passaic County Freeholder Assad Akhter, and (arguably) School Board Member Manny Martinez, could all forego their own mayoral candidacies if Wimberly entered the contest. If he won, his legislative seat could be the plum for any one of a number of hard-working allies.
It should be noted, that whatever happens in the legislative leadership fight, Wimberly has what he trusts are close ties to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy, and as either mayor or assemblyman could leverage that political relationship to his and the city’s advantage; maybe even enjoying an enhancement if rumors prove true of his slate mate, Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35), going in some capacity to a Murphy Administration.